Five Best Practices for Nonprofit PR Programs

Nonprofits, like other organizations, are trying to raise visibility for their groups and succeed in their missions. So, like other organizations, they should employ sound comms programs that bring their message to the masses.

In today’s guest post, Sean Wood, partner at RLM Finsbury, outlines five best practices to help nonprofits organize a PR program that will generate media attention and visibility among target audiences. In many ways, these tips will apply to for-profit organizations as well.

Click through to read on.

To Do Good, Nonprofits Need to Communicate Well: Five Best Practices for Building and Maintaining Reputation by Sean M. Wood, partner, RLM Finsbury

Nonprofit organizations face many of the same communications challenges and opportunities as their for-profit counterparts, including competing for a share of voice in a media environment that is cluttered, mercurial, and non-stop.

Nonprofits do have one significant advantage over corporate peers: their perceived inherent credibility, unencumbered by the profit motive. That said, no matter how noble the mission, if an organization is not telling its story consistently and strategically, it will fall on deaf ears.

These five best practices can help nonprofits leverage their expertise and communicate their messages more effectively, enabling them to build bridges with new audiences, widen their spheres of influence, and enhance their reputations – all in the service of their mission. In order to do good, an organization must first communicate well, inside and out.

1. Use Strategy to Drive Success: All too often, nonprofits conduct a series of loosely connected – or unconnected – communications activities to drive immediate goals. However, proactively executing an overarching communications strategy that maintains the messaging consistency and rigor of a political campaign is far more effective in achieving long-term objectives and creating a distinctive, enduring reputation for an organization.

2. Differentiate with a Compelling, Message-Driven Story: Whether a multi-national corporation, a start-up, or a small nonprofit, every organization must define its unique story and value to the communities it serves. This story should be built on a foundation of sharply defined messages that clearly position and differentiate the organization. A core message platform is the cornerstone of any communications strategy.

In crafting the message, remember that facts alone are not the same as messages. The “who, what, when, where, how” become supporting proof points that help define the “why.” Once the core message platform is finalized, organizations can create tailored versions for specific target audiences. Finally, message discipline is key: ensure the messages are pulled consistently through all communications vehicles, from website copy to interviews to speeches.

3. Identify and Message-Train Spokespersons: To actively and consistently engage with media, major donors, and influencers, identify spokespeople with expertise and comfort with a variety of relevant topics. Conduct a professional media and presentation training workshop for all spokespeople. This will help sharpen the messages, make the messengers more comfortable with them, and ensure the organization is speaking in one voice.

4. Map Out All Communications Activity: Execution —which might include conducting regular media outreach and issuing proprietary data and surveys—is vital. Plotting out these tactics against the strategic communications campaign helps organizations prioritize and generate awareness – even when there might not be “hard news” to report.

5. Use Social Media to Engage and Inspire: Social media have democratized communications. They allow organizations to reach people with their own content on a broad scale and in increasingly creative ways, cost-effectively.

Approach social media with the same strategic mindset you would bring to traditional communications. Interaction should be message-driven, useful to your audience, and part of an overall mix of communications vehicles.

For example, Project HOPE (a group RLM Finsbury works with) launched a series of online documentary short films that tell the story of the lifesaving work its volunteers perform around the world. Through a combination of influencer and celebrity Twitter outreach, blogger engagement, targeted Facebook ads, and a traditional email campaign directing people to a YouTube video, Project HOPE is economically growing its social media following and enhancing support for and engagement with its programs globally.